Winemaker Linda Donovan's new tasting room at 1800 N. Valley View Road, Ashland, is dedicated to discussing the pleasures and process of wine. Here, with fetching views of fruit trees and far-reaching vineyards, patrons are invited to sample rare varietals and hear about the decisions that determined the flavors.
From 1 to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, visitors taste from an ever-changing lineup culled from Donovan's dozen wines.
On one day, samples were given from bottles of Late Bloomer's 2011 gewürztraminer ($10), Le Jeune Chien's 2011 sauvignon blanc ($15), Long Walk Vineyard's 2010 zinfandel ($25) and 2010 mourvedre ($25).
"I moved to Oregon to plant these vineyards, so it's a place that I'm passionate about," says Donovan, a U.C. Davis enology graduate who has worked at prestigious California and Oregon wineries. "It's a well cared-for vineyard."
Thirteen years ago, she planted the vineyard with her sister, Kathy O'Leary, who owns Valley View Orchard farm stand at 1800 N. Valley View Road.
They added 12 acres of syrah, grenache and zinfandel grapevines, and they introduced new varietals to the Rogue Valley: mourvedre, cinsault and carignane.
Fast forward: The first day Donovan opened her tasting room in July, she sold out of wine. The first week, she found more buyers for her $35 L. Donovan 2009 pinotage than the $8 Pick Me white blend or merlot.
"After tasting the pinotage, people understand it's unique," says Donovan of the 300 bottles of wine she made from grapes grown in Talent. "Here, with me, they can taste the value and hear the story."
She says her customers want to try a variety of wines, purchase them and then continue on to other tasting rooms.
Her vision is shared by many in the Napa, Willamette and Walla Walla valleys and other wine regions.
The wine-centered concept prevails because tourists with serious questions and limited time want to take in as many wineries as they can.
In the past, members of Donovan's wine club, called FOLD (Friends of Linda Donovan), bought her different wines at the dock of her custom crush winery, Pallet Wine Co., in Medford.
Now, the Ashland tasting room is the only direct-sales outlet for all five of her labels, including the premium L. Donovan brand.
Donovan, a longtime producer in the state's wine industry, says she feels comfortable in the charming setting she created from a fruit-packing area that once didn't have walls or a finished ceiling.
"I don't have the experience of serving food and other beverages," she says, smiling, "but I do know about my wines, and I can talk to people interested in what I do."
For more information or to be placed on the email newsletter list, call Donovan at 541-621-1589 or see www.ldonovanwines.com.